Although they are not running office errands or getting lunch with coworkers, some UA students have had the opportunity to complete internships that would not have been feasible before the pandemic.
Companies with internships that require a long commute, or are located in places like New York, are not feasible to do in-person for some students. However, because work has shifted to online more opportunities have opened up for some students.
Alexandra Mejia, a senior majoring in information systems, said her internship as a sales analyst for the Schreiber Foods Walmart team would not have been possible if she would have had to commute for it. Because the internship is remote, Mejia has also been able to put off buying a new car until after she graduates, she said.
“From Prairie Grove to Bentonville five days a week, especially in the summer, it would've just eventually killed my car because it's a little older and I've had troubles with it in the past,” Mejia said.
Although the company’s home office is located in Wisconsin, Mejia has been able to participate in events and meetings on Zoom that she otherwise would not have been able to attend, she said.
“I’m the only intern at the Walmart team in Bentonville, and a lot of the other ones are at the home office, so I’ve been able to form cohorts, to meet with them weekly,” Mejia said. “Which is something I don’t think I would have been included in before.”
Evangeline Presley, a junior majoring in marketing, says her internship with the New York-based company Cut+Clarity has provided her an independent work experience. While not as hands-on as a face-to-face internship might have provided, Presley said she would not have been able to intern for a company like this if it were in-person due to low pay and having in-person classes this semester.
“I intern at Cut+Clarity; it's a small sustainable company,” Presley said. “I do a lot of social media, so a lot of mentions, and I’ll find influencers. I also do a lot of e-commerce. I’ll be editing a lot of the jewelry objects, and if there are errors in the website.”
Erica Estes, director of employer relations for J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, said since moving to online, many companies are recruiting with the University of Arkansas who have not before.
“Companies in other locations that had not considered recruiting from the UofA previously, but because we're all virtual, I’ve seen more companies participating in career fairs,” Estes said.
Presley said the company has worked on making sure her internship is designed for the online working environment. However, it requires a lot of independent work, and she is given various tasks and expected to learn fast.
“We will usually meet at least once a week, and we do it through a website called Trello, it essentially maps out what I need to do and they’ll have things and tutorials if I don't know how to do it,” Presley said. “It’s a lot of, I do it and then they’ll get back soon if I need to fix something.”
While being remote has given her more opportunities within the company, Mejia misses out on the social aspect of the internship that she would gain if she were in-person she said.
“I think I've missed out on what the company culture is among individuals,” Mejia said. “I join meetings throughout the day, but there's not any of that candid conversation that there would be in like real life.”
Despite her ability to receive independent work and her first-hand experience in marketing, Presley said she misses the relationships with the other interns she would be receiving if she were in person.
“There's another intern and so I don't get to see her or talk to her all that often even though we work at the same time,” Presley said. “I feel like I’m definitely missing out on the interaction with her, and then maybe some projects that come from being in the same place.”
Estes said that there were a lot of companies who stopped hiring interns because of the pandemic. However, for those who were able to shift to online, she said she still thinks they are able to provide students with opportunities and experience.
“There were a lot of companies that canceled internships when the pandemic happened and then some companies were able to pivot to a remote experience,” Estes said. “At the very least going remote allows the student to continue to expand and gain experience despite the fact that everything is shut down.”